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The Roanoke Times Online (www)
Roanoke, Virginia
Tuesday, October 8, 1996

A haunting story that helps those who listen to the words

by Richard Foster
Staff Writer

By now, Mary Ellen Amos is pretty accustomed to the fans who come up to her and ask to meet her daughter Tori. After all, as she points out, she and her husband are usually the only gray-haired folks at a Tori Amos concert.

But there was something different about the earnest young man who came up to her after a show a couple of years ago. Tori's mom explained to him that setting up a meeting with Tori is almost impossible. "Then would you tell her for me," he asked, "that I know for a fact that she has helped a lot of men as well as women through the rape experience that she sings about?"

"It really kind of took me aback for a few minutes," Mary Amos recalled. She had never thought of the idea of a man being raped. "But he said, 'Believe me, Mrs. Amos, there are a lot of men that have been helped by her song as well as women.'" Tori Amos' haunting song "Me And A Gun," sung a cappella, tells the story of her 1985 rape in Los Angeles at the hands of an audience member who hitched a ride from her after a lounge gig. ("It was me and a gun and a man on my back and I sang 'holy, holy' as he buttoned down his pants.")

"It was a very, very moving experience as he stood there and told me how it had changed his life, because he has had the same experience of trying to deny it," said Tori's mother, who flew out to Los Angeles in 1985 to aid Tori after her rape.

Inspired by the movie Thelma and Louise, which helped Tori deal with her buried memories, "Me And A Gun" is a staple at Tori's concerts, and many fans say it has helped them come to grips with their own histories of sexual abuse. "It's surprising how many people have had a violent experience," Tori said. "And it also surprises me how few of them feel like they've healed from it yet. It's quite a journey to work through that deep, deep, deep seated pain."

Tori has received awards from the governor of Maryland and the Washington D.C. Rape Crisis Center for her work helping rape victims. In 1994, she founded R.A.I.N.N. -- the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a toll-free phone line through which sexual abuse victims can seek free local phone counseling and other help.

In recent months, the phone service has had some financial hardships, but a soon-to-be-announced national sponsor has agreed to support it with donations and advertising.

"It's very exciting because R.A.I.N.N. really needed some help. You're talking about hundreds and hundreds of calls," Tori said. "The good news is there's a phone line. The bad news is it's sad that so many have had this kind of violent experience."

R.A.I.N.N. -- the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network -- can be reached at (800) 656-HOPE.

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